Here is your ultimate guide on how to pack for your summer holidays like a French woman. Holiday packing can always seem a bit stressful, especially when you’re going away for several weeks with only a carry-on. So, I’ve saved you some time by listing a few essentials French girls are always packing for a summer getaway (from beauty to clothing items to accessories). Keep reading below if you have ever wanted to get a glimpse inside a French girl’s suitcase and see an up-close look at exactly which essentials French women are packing for their summer vacations.
The French Approach To Packing
French women always seem to look put-together and effortlessly chic even during their summer holidays. And for them, packing is an extension of their capsule-wardrobe approach. Indeed, they basically just shrink that French capsule wardrobe down even more to the size of a carry-on.
French women usually bring a selection of high quality, versatile pieces, comfortable to wear, and that can dress up and down. Such as a basic white dress that goes from sightseeing, beach days to evening cocktails. French girls usually just build a capsule wardrobe with essential items that are the base for the rest of their outfits. And, they can wear the same outfit for different occasions, just by changing the accessorization.
In terms of carry-ons and bags, personally, I hate waiting for my luggage at the airport. And I also live on the third floor in Paris and I don’t have a lift, so carry-ons and duffel bags are the best options for me. Here are below, a few of my favorite carry-ons or duffel bags that are both practical and chic. Even if carry-ons can seem expensive I think it’s a great investment especially if you’re traveling a lot for business or leisure. If you’re more into duffel bags, Longchamp Pliage bags are a chic, classic and affordable option, even a go-to for Parisians.
What Lies Inside French Girls’ Travel Bags
Keep reading below to know exactly how to pack like a French woman, and what lies inside French girl’s travel bags.
In summer, French girls always bring fluid blouses, cotton T-shirts, and some white linen shirts. First, French women always pack a few white T-shirts, which are the prettiest thing you can pair with denim shorts, skirts, and everything else in the summer. I love this one from Madewell, which is high quality and well-fitted one (and not so expensive).
Second, French women always add in their suitcases some white linen shirts. They are perfect to wear on vacation while you’re traveling, on the beach over your favorite swimsuit or over shorts in the evening for a refined vacation look. My favorite white linen shirt is this one from Asceno, that I pair with a one-piece swimsuit to go to the beach.
Denim shorts are an essential of the French vacation wardrobe. And I think a pair of shorts is probably the item that gets the most use throughout vacations. Personally, I always bring on vacation one pair of jean shorts to wear with different tops or a one-piece swimsuit if it’s really too hot outside. French women usually pair it with a pair of espadrilles and a basic white T-shirt for an easy, effortless daytime look. While choosing a good pair of denim shorts, I’ll recommend avoiding shorts being too-short, too-tight, or too-revealing. My favorite one that I always bring with me on vacation is this one from Madewell.
Mini, Midi and Long Dresses
French women usually pack dresses that can be worn during the day and go through the night. Especially as mini, midi, long, floral, and wrap dresses. I love wearing dresses on holiday, and especially white dresses, even if the white can get dirty fast. Indeed, a very simple and basic white dress can look very chic in the evening just with a pair of gold high heels and with a bright red lip. Prefer a lightweight cotton or linen version, which can be dressed up with heels.
This summer I bought several styles of dresses for my vacations: mini ones are perfect for the day or for a day at the beach, long ones are stunning and chic for a night out, and wrap dresses are super comfortable to wear for sightseeing. For more details, check out my previous article on the 8 dresses French girls love to wear in summer.
One Piece Swimsuits & Bikinis
The first thing French women put in their suitcase for a summer vacation is definitely swimsuits. Indeed, swimsuits and bikinis are an essential part of the French summer wardrobe. And, French women generally pack different types of bathing suits: the one-pieces, the minimal, the high-waisted, the underwire, and the print one.
Not only those swimsuit styles are flattering to all body shapes, but they’re also easy to wear and timeless. Remember that French girls play the intellectual card and they don’t like to be over-sexy with swimsuits and bikinis that are too revealing and too sexy. For more details, check out my previous article on the five swimsuit and bikini styles French girls swear by.
When it comes to colors, French girls avoid flashy and neon colors and prefer classic (navy blue, black, deep red) and earthy colors (tan, faded yellow, nude). My favorite swimsuits are from Matteau and Eres. There’re quite pricy but the quality worth the price.
Panama & Fedora Straw Hats
If the first thing French women put in their suitcase for a summer vacation is their swimsuits, they definitely do not forget their sunglasses and a summer hat. French women are famous for knowing how to look after their skin, and there’s no better way to protect your face from harsh UV rays than with a hat. French women prefer to wear either a fedora straw hat that shades their shoulders, neck, and décolletage or a Panama hat that goes with every outfit. I love white fedora or Panama hats, I think a white hat gives instant chic to any of your summer outfits. I have a few summer hats in my collection: the Calvin by Janessa Leoné, the Rag & Bone straw Panama hat the Henrietta by Maison Michel.
As for sunglasses, another French summer staple is the Celine sunglasses. When choosing your sunglasses, avoid following exaggerated trends. Instead, go for a classic and timeless shape with a twist. So you can invest in a more expensive pair of sunglasses that you don’t have to change every year. My favorite sunglasses are the Celine’s Polarized Square Sunglasses, the Gradient Cat Eye Sunglasses, or the Round Cateye Sunglasses. Wearing them with my white fedora hat and my one-piece swimsuit I feel like being Audrey Hepburn in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the beaches of the French Riviera.
For the shoes, French women usually pack no more than three types of shoes that cover all occasions, and that can go with any outfit. First, espadrilles are a known French-girl staple and are the most comfortable shoes you’ll walk in. French girls usually wear them at the beach or at night with a floral dress. My favorite pair is this one from Castaner (which I bought this summer).
Second, French girls always have a pair of K. Jacques sandals which are super comfortable to wear for a touristy getaway. There are many other styles of flat sandals including leather options, ergonomically designed sandals, and even designer slides.
Third, French girls bring a pair of high heels, that is perfect to wear at night with floral, wrap, or white dresses. I just bought those gold sandals by Souliers Martinez, which are perfect to wear for a summer night out. My French tip would be to avoid flip-flops (even for the beach) and the classic rubber options that you see at the pool that are not chic at all. For more details, check out my previous article on the 5 summer shoes French women wear on repeat.
French women usually bring with them on vacation two bags: a French market basket and a more fancy one for a night out. One of the staples of the French summer wardrobe is the French market basket or straw bag. Easy to carry and versatile, French women use it for shopping, picnic, days at the beach, or simply as an everyday handbag. For a day at the beach, I always bring with me my favorite straw bag filled with beach towels, sunscreens, water, and books. On vacation, I use it as well as an everyday handbag.
Luxury Black Leather Handbag
On vacation, French women always pack another handbag, which is only used for summer parties and night out. A small black leather handbag is best, as you can pair it with any dresses and any shoe styles. My favorite ones are the Chanel Classic Flap Bag or the Chanel Crystal Satin Shoulder Bag.
On vacations, French girls do not wear any makeup during the day, and a little bit for evening cocktails (lipstick, blush and a little mascara). Instead, they tend to bring a few skincare basics with them, such as a good SPF, an after-sun cream, a face cleanser, dry oil, and dry shampoo.
Personally, I always bring with me essential beauty products like La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen SPF60, the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil, the Klorane Oatmilk Gentle Dry Shampoo, and the Avène Spring Thermal Water Spray, the Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentré, and the Bioderma Sensibio micellar water. For more details, check out my previous post on the French beauty essentials for summer.
As I said previously, French women tend to go a little lighter on makeup on vacation. I like to use a little bit of concealer under the eye area, a pass of mascara, and a layer of red lipstick is usually enough. I love the Tarte Maracuja Concealer, the Diorshow Waterproof Mascara, and the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Lipstick in the shade Red Carpet. Then, I like to use a little bit of my lipstick as a blush on my cheeks or I love to use Guerlain’s Terracotta. Finally, I just spray a spritz of my favorite perfume for summer which is the Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Coconut Fizz Eau de Toilette.
And you, where are you going this summer on holiday? What are the key essentials you are always packing for a summer getaway? Please add your comments below.
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Bonjour! I’m Leonce, I’m French and I’m a Parisian expat currently living in the city center of Amsterdam (I previously lived in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, on the Ile-Saint-Louis). I created Leonce Chenal back in 2018 when I was living in London and missing my home country way too much. Because I truly believe you don’t have to be French or to live in France to experience the French art de vivre, Leonce Chenal is a French digital magazine to help you live your French life, wherever you are. Enjoy <3